Michael Moloney has been a mainstay of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" since it premiered six seasons ago.
The designer brings a California flair to the popular ABC reality series, which builds new homes for families facing hardships. Moloney, with his tan, bright-white smile and ever- upbeat persona, is infusing his chic and smart expertise into the Fresno home currently under construction for Mary Ann Riojas and her four teenage children.
Riojas was born with no legs, one complete arm and a right arm that ends at the elbow with stunted fingers. Determined to lead an active life, Riojas pulled herself off of welfare to pursue an associate degree in business administration and land a job. She also was named an ambassador for Easter Seals and has traveled across the country to share her story of perseverance.
Moloney, who lives in Los Angeles, worked in the fashion industry before deciding to turn his creativity to home design. According to ABC's Web site, he opened two high-profile design stores in Southern California and has appeared on several television programs, including "Good Morning America" and "The View."
The Bee caught up with Moloney before crews started the fast-paced task of building the Riojas' new home, which will be unveiled to the family Thursday morning.
Here are excerpts from the interview:
Question: This will be house No. 138, if I'm correct.
Answer: Wow, wow ...
Do you have a favorite project from all the homes you've done?
That's a really hard thing to answer because each one is so individual and specific, I really don't. They're each individual and exciting. The minute we get here, we're so immersed in it, you know, invested in the project and the family and what their needs are ... They're all awesome.
What is it about Mary Ann's story that got to you?
I think anyone who has heard her story is touched immediately. She's just a testament to someone who puts their mind to something and anything can happen. The one thing she can't do is fix this house. She's obviously done everything else. She's a pretty phenomenal lady. We're excited that we can [fix the home].
Do you keep in touch with any of the families?
Oh yeah, e-mails and cards and notes and visits. I have a shop down in Southern California. A lot of times when families come to L.A., or some of the local families they'll come by, they leave me notes and cards. It's really nice. I would say, all of the families that we help, we've given them the ... tools to succeed. It's so exciting to see the kids doing well and the families thriving.
What's the toughest part about this job?
I would say the toughest part is just being on the road, being away from your life and your friends and family and all that, on a personal level. On a level of doing the show, it's being in a different city, in a different state every other week. And then trying to source things and find what you need and pull it together and create a custom home in seven days.
You've probably already heard about the response from the community for this particular project ...
Was that the biggest response you've had from volunteers?
I don't know about the biggest, but it's huge. Over 4,000 people have already volunteered to help, which is more than we can utilize. We're just asking those people who can't be here to continue to give back, to see what they can do to help the community. Maybe they can help out in another way. We're also asking anyone who comes to view -- we invite everybody to come out here this week and root us on -- we're asking anyone who comes to bring at least just one can of canned foods so we can help restore the Fresno food bank, which has been depleted.